Preparation and conflagration of a two-day incendiary festival in a fireworks producing town. Day one is the Castles of Fire, then day two is the Bulls. We spend time with participants, mostly paying attention to stories about when things have gone wrong during past festivals leading to death and disfigurement, then watch the pretty sparks with the tension of hoping not to see anybody caught aflame. Missed this at True/False but it played on PBS in an apparently edited version. Lindy Lou, Juror Number Two seems to be cut even more, so this calls for investigation.

A massive particle accelerator is being shut down, and the team is scouting locations to build a new one in the Sonoran Desert along the U.S./Mexico border. We are focused on two female scientists who may be lovers, one of whom has two children visiting. None of the plot or character is extremely well defined, the movie content to float in a Super-8 haze, producing some lovely images but it’s all so diffuse and quiet and soothing and still that it was hard enough to stay awake, let alone figure what is going on.

Personal and professional setbacks… mild flashbacks to Tropical Malady… teenage insults… stories of a Weird Uncle… mystical talk about particles and sociopolitical talk about borders, while lost men search for the last North American jaguar. A kid nails his brother in the eye with a rock while their mom gets a snakebite… things happen all at once, in low trance tones.

Not sure who played what, but the main cast features Celia Au (star of Bad Tara), Andrea Chen (Lorelei’s roomie in Boyhood) and Jennifer Kim (Mozart in the Jungle, Wild Canaries). Carver also made an Anohni video and Schmidt made waves at Cannes this year with his weirdo soccer film Diamantino.

The word online is that the boys (played by girls btw) have an incestuous relationship, how did I miss this? Also, Schmidt’s dad was a particle physicist.

In conversation with Filmmaker magazine:
Schmidt:

Psychology doesn’t really exist at all [in the film], and [it’s] replaced with desire. Everything is rendered as erotic, basically, in one way or another, but this eroticism and sensuality is not a reflection of the characters’ psychologies or the cultural psychologies that they belong to, but is simply a force.

Carver:

The film is deliberately reckless and playful with representation, and this is sort of uniformly distributed. It’s not just people that are treated with this irreverence, but whole landscapes … We really wanted the film to be sensual and humorous and perverse. To maintain a level of chemistry, we’d sort of write forward and erase back. I think it ultimately helped to create a very pliable structure. One of the technical challenges was how to maintain the narrative threads. They’re very minor, but they exist.

Veronica is injured in her sexual encounter with the tentacle beast, visits the hospital, where medic Fabian wants to help find the “dog” that bit her. The medic’s sister is Ale, whose shitty husband Angel has bad sex with her, and later, more aggressive sex with her brother. So far every other scene is a sex scene, and we’ve just decided to ignore that the movie opened with a tentacle beast…

“It’s going to like you.” The older couple who house the tentacle beast suggest Veronica take a break, so she brings the medic, who is later found beaten almost to death in a field. Evidence of Angel’s affair and his homophobic rage are found on his phone, and he’s off to jail. To console her for her losses, Ale is introduced to the tentacle beast. “What’s there in the cabin is our primitive side in its most basic and purest state – materialized.”

Angel’s out on bail or something, I forget, decides to pack a gun and visit his wife, where he attacks her then clumsily shoots himself in the leg. She loads him into the truck and takes him to visit the tentacle beast, and the next we see, his and Veronica’s bodies are being dumped in a ditch. Obviously we’ve got some major Possession influence, but there’s a bit of Under the Skin weirdness, Staying Vertical omnisexual frankness, and I thought I felt some Cosmos in there somewhere. Escalante’s fourth feature (I also heard good things about Heli) – he tied with Konchalovskiy for best director in Venice.

This was better than it looked from posters/trailers/hype. I am gonna need to watch again ASAP. The Back to the Future disappearing-hand trick is employed, I guessed early on that lead kid Miguel’s real great-grandpa is the desperate loser and not the famous crooner, and the big dramatic goal is to right a historical wrong and unite loved ones in the afterlife before one of them is forgotten by the living. Some beautiful stuff, giving me nice flashbacks to Kubo.

Time-lapse landscape photography with different parts of the frame running at different rates… or moving in slow-motion, then skipping ahead… or fading one time into another… or flipping back and forth between shots from different times… or looping back on itself. Since it’s all about glitching the time-movement, it’s odd that he chose some shots with hardly any movement.

“A survey of the physical qualities and metaphysical quandaries of the United States-Mexico border. Follows the boundary and its immediate surrounding topography incrementally from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific Ocean,” says the official description. Rappmund also made a Nebraska movie called Vulgar Fractions, and studied under James Benning (obviously). Cinema Scope has an interview, and a visual map of all the shots in the film. “Repeating images reinforces the stability of the portrayal; it gives viewers a chance to catch small things in dense snapshots; it highlights movement as well as clearly accentuating the static; it breathes a rhythm and a three-dimensional life into pictures that’s difficult to capture with traditional filmmaking techniques alone.”

My still screenshots are can show off the lovely photography, but not the time/motion tricks that bring each scene to life. Atmospheric sound, presumably recorded at each camera site, featuring some birds who got my cockatiels all flustered. It plays like installation art, and my attention phased in and out… I should have been staring raptly at the photography but Katy wrote to ask if I could find any indie movie theaters in Shanghai (short answer: nope), so that took precedence for a while.

Where can I get one of these?

After this and Edge of Tomorrow, Emily Blunt is an action star. Though she was no hero in this one – she’d talk big, but ultimately she’s being used by compromised higher-ups who have no interest in her stupid morals. Josh Brolin is a boss, working with Benicio Del Toro, who turns out to be consolidating cartel power, I think, and/or taking personal revenge, by going all James Bond and assassinating some Mexicans at the end. Blunt and partner Daniel Kaluuya (star of my favorite Black Mirror episode) are forced along for the ride.

Think I like this Villeneuve fella. Storytelling is bizarre (probably plays better the second time around) with some groany dialogue and troop behavior but filming is nice. People said it was tense and scary but I still think El Sicario Room 164 is scarier.

M. D’Angelo:

Kate is incredibly strong in a situation where her strength is useless. This is a deeply pessimistic film about the near-impossibility of overcoming institutional corruption — one that’s honest enough to have its protagonist struggle for a long time about whether what she’s witnessing even is corruption.

Oh whoops, I thought I heard this was really good, but now I see all C-ratings from criticwire. Maybe I heard that about the gender-reversed remake by the Cold In July guy. Anyway, when a remake is available it’s usually a sure bet to watch the original first, and I thought a Jorge Michael Grau horror would be a nice tie-in with the Jorge Grau horror (no apparent relation) I just watched – a GRAUsome double-feature to go with SCOTtober.

A man dies at the mall, and his family pretty much falls apart, immediately losing their watch-selling business, starting fights and calling attention to themselves. Older Alfredo (Francisco Barreiro, the dad from Here Comes The Devil) is supposed to be the new leader, which violent, impulsive brother Julian resents. Dad used to bring fresh bodies to his cannibal wife and kids, and he apparently never trained the rest of them in the art of not being noticed, so the two boys perform some blatant attacks and end up bringing home a prostitute, but mom doesn’t approve of prostitutes and brings the body back to her vindictive friends. The movie also follows Let Sleeping Corpses Lie‘s lesson that cops are absolutely the worst – corrupt and terrible at their jobs.

A few interesting shots and good performances but mostly the movie is being purposely obscure and no fun, as if actng weird about its cannibal violence can turn it into Dogtooth. Played at Cannes alongside The Silent House, Sound of Noise and Bedevilled. Grau made Ingrown in the first ABCs of Death, has a new agoraphobia thriller called Big Sky.

Intense movie, and a good one to have watched right after Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Prologue of illicit lesbian sex followed by an intruder cutting off one girl’s fingers was confusing at first, but ties in at the end. A few scenes later a married couple is touching each other in the car while their kids go play on a cursed mountain (and end up disappearing for the night), and I’m getting the sense that this is a 1970’s/80’s-style horror that cruelly punishes sexual activity. Noel Murray in The Dissolve: “Ten minutes into the film, Bogliano has established a cruel syllogism, suggesting that growing up leads to sex, and that sex leads to all sorts of horrors.”

Field of fingers for Kyle McLachlan to find:

I forgot about this once the kids disappeared and returned as pod children. The kids are finally discovered dead in a cave on the cursed mountain by their mother, who pieces together that the kids she brought home last week are demons who cut class, levitate and have sex with each other, terrifying their babysitter. But mom makes the mistake of telling her impulsively violent husband, who shoots her in the cave, both of them shown leaving the mountain later as pod people.

Bloody parents:

Meanwhile there’s the finger-collecting madman from the start – he’s said to have also been possessed by the mountain. And there’s the local creepy voyeur who lives near the mountain. The parents wrongly suspect him of kidnapping and abusing the kids the night they disappeared, sneak into his trailer and murder him. So you’ve also got the local sheriff investigating this murder, and a gas-station guy who is basically The Harbinger from Cabin in the Woods.

Mom spots the voyeur:

Sheriff comes to visit – Bogliano likes these De Palma shots:

Murray again:

Here Comes The Devil, at its root, is a film about parental anxiety. Felix and Sol are watching their children mature before their eyes, knowing that soon they’ll be cut loose into a hazardous world full of predators and malevolence – and that when that happens, whatever’s keeping this family together will likely lose its hold. Here Comes The Devil is at its best when it’s at its least literal: when Bogliano confronts the inevitability of personal loss, whether it’s as a result of demonic possession or not.

Almost plays as a panicky sequel to Picnic at Hanging Rock. Violent dad was Francisco Barreiro of We Are What We Are and some Nicolas Pereda movies. Bogliano made Bigfoot in the first ABCs of Death, has a new one called Scherzo Diabolico.

Sequelitis. Tyrannical band manager Vladimir returns from the wilderness claiming to be Moses, leads the group to Coney Island then to Siberia, stealing the nose of the Statue of Liberty along the way. Andre Wilms, star of Le Havre, plays an American agent on their tail trying to return the nose. Cowritten by two band members and featuring much of the gang from the first movie plus a Jarmusch cameo. Vladimir died of a heart attack the next year, so no more sequels, but there’s a concert film called Total Balalaika Show, which Hulu wouldn’t let me watch.